By Matthew– February 12, 2013
While FFG has somewhat stolen my thunder by releasing the Edge of Darkness preview (which I’m really not complaining about), I’m going to go ahead with my plans to examine the Hoth-matters mechanic in the upcoming Hoth cycle. For those of you who like to avoid such things – spoiler alert ahead!
Several cards in the upcoming Hoth cycle have the Hoth characteristic. Additionally, several cards care about how many Hoth cards (and objectives in particular) you and your opponent have out. At first glance, this appears to be a very linear design mechanic. (Side note: if you play MtG at all you should check out Mark Rosewater’s blog – you’ll learn lots about game design that often generalizes outside of Magic). There’s nothing inherently wrong with a linear mechanic. It will actually make deck building easier: if you want to use the Hoth-matters cards you’ll want to squeeze as many of them as possible into your deck as well as having as many of your objectives as possible have the Hoth characteristic (and eventually all 10 of them would be ideal, though that might not be possible until the cycle is complete). The down-side of the mechanic is that it tends to punish your opponent for not playing the same game. Once again, not inherently a bad thing as long as the bonuses for controlling Hoth are balanced enough that a non-Hoth deck can compete. So let’s take a look at what we know.
Our first peak at the Hoth cycle! I know it’s old news at this point, having been released back in November, but it gives us our first peak at what winning control of Hoth can do for you.
In the card fan posted above we can see one of the balance mechanisms for the Hoth-matters mechanic. Cards like The Desolation of Hoth are less useful if your opponent isn’t playing with enough Hoth objectives of their own. Still, even against an opponent with no Hoth objectives The Desolation of Hoth can be used to take out a LS unit pretty quickly. I’d say the card compares decently with Force Lightning: both cost 3, both can conditionally remove any LS unit, Force Lightning can’t hit objectives – but its requirements for destroying units are a little easier to manage. Hoth Survival Gear can potentially offer the same boost as Mandalorian Armor, but with a cost of 0 instead of 2. The LS has a few characters already who could really use the damage capacity boost (and more sure to come). Yoda with 5 health perhaps (and an enhancement)? Finally, we have the objective Hoth Operations. We haven’t seen for sure how many speeders the LS will have available, but we can assume there will be a few. Giving each of them Edge (1) could be huge in engagements with multiple speeders participating. It’s also our first glimpse at cards that punish your opponent for not playing with Hoth objectives. In this case, the benefit is limited enough that it probably won’t be game-breaking, but it’s something to keep an eye on.
There is one other Hoth-matters card partially spoiled on that page, but we’ll get to it later when it’s fully spoiled.
This time we get a full objective set spoiled (with 2x Echo Defender). The objective itself can give you Obi-Wan’s ability in all of your engagements… assuming you control more Hoth objectives than your opponent. A very good ability, but one that the DS can play around. Echo Base is simply amazing for any Hoth-centered deck. It provides one resource, it ups the damage capacity of your Hoth objectives, and it counts as controlling a Hoth objective. All of a sudden, the LS can now control 4 Hoth objectives! Not only would that practically guarantee more than the DS (we haven’t seen a similar ability for them yet), but cards like Echo Defender and Hoth Survival Gear get even better! Remember that 5 health Yoda theorized above? Now he has 6 health. Echo Defender is an underwhelming card by itself, but powerful with a few Hoth objectives out. Win the edge battle, and he can lock down one opposing unit with a focus token and likely kill a 2nd with all of those unit damage icons he’s gained. The Shield Generator will generate some interesting options. Imagine if it already has 2 damage on it: if your opponent attacks then you can use it to give a shield token to one of your defenders or the defending objective and give yourself an extra 3-icon card for the edge battle. And finally, the First Marker. This is a utility card that will absolutely stop some DS decks in their tracks. Against other decks though, it will be useless on table and not very good for edge battles – making it discard fodder.
FFG was a bit more stingy with the spoilers for this pack, but we do see two more Hoth-matters cards. First, the Smugglers and Spies objective Prepare for Evacuation. A Hoth objective itself, it will make your opponent think twice about destroying your Hoth objectives (including itself) as they could have their most expensive card bounced back to their hand to waste another turn’s worth of resources just playing it again. Or maybe you decide to bounce your own heavily damaged unit to replay it with full health. Or maybe just another way to trigger Leia shenanigans. The options are endless. Additionally, instead of punishing your opponent for not playing Hoth objectives, Prepare for Evacuation will punish them for playing Hoth objectives. It doesn’t care whose objective is leaving play, it just cares that it has the Hoth characteristic. As if the DS wasn’t having a bad enough day when you destroyed their objective, you also bounced their best unit. Also seen in this image is the fate card partially spoiled earlier: Battle of Hoth. The first thing that sticks out: 3 force icons! That makes it a good fate card before we even get to its ability. The ability itself is pretty good too, as long as at least somebody controls a Hoth objective. You can remove one damage from your own objective, or deal one damage to your opponent’s Hoth objective (it doesn’t have to be the currently engaged objective). The ability in isolation is probably on par with Target of Opportunity (which one is better depends on what other cards are out there). Where it shines is in allowing you to set up some other cards that care about damage on objectives (such as the partially spoiled Colonel Starck who appears to get a large boost when attacking a damaged objective or the objectives from Assault on Echo Base which care about being undamaged).
We actually don’t get any new Hoth-matters cards spoiled for this set, but we do know it includes the previously seen Battle of Hoth. Additionally, we get this Imperial Objective:
Here’s the combo with using Battle of Hoth to remove damage instead of deal out damage. Increasing your reserve value is extremely good as it is the only way to gain a real, lasting card advantage in this game (did you know Wikipedia had an article on card advantage? I didn’t until just now). The draw mechanic in this game makes most normal ways of gaining card advantage (sweepers, 2-for-1 trades, etc) only temporary as using more cards also leads to drawing more cards. Having an extra card in your hand though keeps you a card up on your opponent (and makes edge battles that much easier).
Can you say “wow?” It’s a good thing that this is a Limit 1 per objective deck set, because according to the article it comes with two (!!!) copies of Subzero Defenses! Granted they don’t stack with each other, but having two will make it easier to find one of them. Plus, along with the Wilderness Fighters, there’s no real punishment for your opponent if they’re not playing the Hoth game: both cards only care about your Hoth objectives. The objective itself, on the other hand, is a brutal penalty to the Dark Side player if they can’t keep up in the Hoth count. For any type of aggressive Dark Side deck, taking out Echo Base Defense will likely be a top priority, possibly worthy of an early Superlaser Blast.
I’m looking forward to the deck variety that will be available after the Hoth cycle is completed and the Hoth-matters theme is fully realized. In the short term though (ie when only the first set or two have been released), it’s going to be hard to build around. You will really want as many of your objectives to be Hoth objectives as possible if you’re going to take full advantage of the mechanic and that won’t be possible at first. Too many of the cards are just not efficient enough by themselves to warrant splashing one or two Hoth sets. That said, there are also plenty of spoiled cards that will be worth playing right out of the gate, and that will open the the meta quite a bit over the fairly limited Core Set. Now we just have to wait until sometime next month to see what other cards might be coming our way and get our deck-building gears turning.